The former Fish Tale Diner of Salisbury, Mass. suffers fire damage

The restaurant currently known as The Deck, located at the Bridge Marina on Rings Island, hard by the bank of the Merrimack River in Salisbury, Massachusetts suffered a fire on August 22, 2015. Within sight of U.S. Rte. 1 where it crosses the river between Newburyport and Salisbury, the restaurant, formerly known as the Fish Tale Diner (until 2012) experienced heat, water and smoke damage from the fire that appears to have started outside the attached kitchen annex. At the time of this writing the fire was still of an undetermined origin.

Here is the text from an article written by Alexandra Koktsidis for the Boston Globe on August 22, 2016…

Salisbury restaurant damaged in fire
No injuries in early two-alarm blaze
By Alexandra Koktsidis

GLOBE CORRESPONDENT

Conrad Audette, who co-owns The Deck with his father, woke up abruptly at 7 a.m. Saturday when his fiancée ex­claimed that the restaurant was on fire. “I leapt out of bed and ran outside to see smoke down the street,” Audette, who lives near the family’s restaurant in Salisbury, said in an e-mail Saturday. An employee who had spot­ted the fire from the Newburyport Turnpike bridge went im­mediately to Audette’s home to tell him.

A two-alarm fire severely damaged the kitchen of The Deck, a popular and recently renovated seasonal waterfront restaurant in Salisbury, offi­cials said. Located at 179 Bridge Road, The Deck features out­door seating and picturesque views overlooking the Merri­mack River. Reports of the fire were called in at 7:11 a.m., said Deputy Fire Chief Robert Cook, who said no injuries were reported. The fire had been extin­guished by 9 a.m., but fire- • fighters and investigators re­mained on scene into the af­ternoon, he said. “The restaurant opens at 11 a.m., so this was before em­ployees arrive,” Audette said.

“The inspectors still don’t know the cause, but it appar­ently began outside.”Audette said the kitchen and inside seating area of the restaurant were badly dam­aged, but the two decks were intact. The restaurant had made renovations over the past winter, adding a prep room and second deck to dou­ble its capacity. It reopened May 15. “We are a scratch kitchen with a simple menu, but take great care in supporting local ingredients,” Audette said. The Deck offers fresh seafood, pub food, and salads. “We grind our own burgers, bake our own buns, make our dressings and sauces,” Audette said.

Audette said that he doesn’t know how long The Deck, which would have shut for the season in October, will stay closed. “We plan on starting our rebuild as soon as we can,” he said. Susan Turner of Topsfield has dined at The Deck several times with her husband and friends, and she said she en­joys the restaurant’s burgers, swordfish — and Rum Bucket drinks, served in a sand pail with Swedish Fish. “I leapt out of bed and ran outside to see smoke down the street”. Turner heard about the fire on Facebook. “I just thought, ‘Oh, that’s sad!’ It’s a place we love to go, and we feel so badly for the owners,” she said over the phone Saturday.

The Deck opened in July 2013. A restaurant called The Fish Tail had been there. “We saved everything we could for historical respect,” Audette said, including stained-glass windows and hand-crafted cabinets. “Much of the damage was to the origi­nal structure unfortunately,” Audette said. On Saturday, the restau­rant’s Facebook page posted a message about the fire and re­ceived overwhelming support. “Thankfully nobody was in­jured during the fire this morning,” the message said. “We’re grateful and apprecia­tive of all the support.” Christi Maglio, 39, of New­buryport said she had just started going to The Deck this summer with her husband. “It’s just a very down-to-earth place to go,” she said. The nights with live music brought a sense of community, she said, and the view: “It’s beautiful.” “It’s devastating, but I know they’ll reopen as soon as possible;’ she said. Alexandra Koktsidis can be reached at alexandra.koktsidis @globe.com.
Follow her on
Twitter @akoktsidis.

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Worcester Lunch Car No. 762 as the Fish Tale Diner.
March 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

The former diner, Worcester Lunch Car No. 762 was built in 1940 and delivered to its first operating location in Ipswich, Massachusetts where it traded as the Agawam Diner from 1940 to 1947 when it was replaced by a larger streamlined diner also built by Worcester. After the diner left Ipswich it was briefly located in Brunswick, Maine (1947-1950, although I am not sure it actually operated there) before moving back to Rowley, Mass. to become one of two locations of the Agawam Diner operated by the Galanis family. It stayed in Rowley until it was again replaced by a newer diner in 1970. It was then sold and moved to Salisbury, eventually becoming the Fish Tale Diner.

When I first started going to the Fish Tale in the early 1980s, it was open very long hours and I seem to recall going there once in the middle of the night! I always enjoyed the location, possibly one of the most scenic spots I know for a diner. When the last proprietors were running it, I recall going there one summer morning and they had the doors open. They were in the habit of feeding a small group of local ducks who lived by the marina. Apparently this particular morning they were in a hurry to open the diner and neglected to feed the ducks in a timely manner. One actually came walking into the diner looking for his oyster crackers!!! I am happy to say that I actually managed to eat at the Fish Tale on the last day they were open and wrote about the diner closing in Diner Hotline – https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2012/03/11/fish-tale-diner-1970-2012/

After the Fish Tale closed, Mark and Conrad Audette – the owners of the marina where the diner was located demolished the old attached kitchen and replaced it with a new building that included a new kitchen as well as rest room facilities. They also did some renovations on the interior keeping the counter, stools and hood intact. They removed the original booths and tables and changed the backbar area. Keeping the attached deck for outdoor seating. the restaurant was renamed “The Deck and opened in July of 2013 and was by all accounts a huge success.

To get back to the fire, it was reported very quickly by news media outlets and was on the internet fairly early. I know I probably shared something on Facebook about it and emailed Bob Higgins my intrepid friend who was more of a regular customer of the diner than I was (he’s retired and gets around more than I do). Bob did manage to get up there before I did and talked with the owner who is hoping to salvage the diner portion of the structure and eventually reopen. I made a quick trip on Labor Day to get some photos (of the exterior only), the following photos show the structure  with the fire damage.

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The Deck Restaurant, Bridge Marina, Salisbury, Massachusetts showing
fire damage. September 7, 2015 photo by Larry Cultrera

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The Deck Restaurant, Bridge Marina, Salisbury, Massachusetts showing
fire damage. September 7, 2015 photo by Larry Cultrera

The-Deck-3
The Deck Restaurant, Bridge Marina, Salisbury, Massachusetts showing
fire damage. September 7, 2015 photo by Larry Cultrera

The-Deck-4
The Deck Restaurant, Bridge Marina, Salisbury, Massachusetts showing
fire damage. September 7, 2015 photo by Larry Cultrera

The next few interior shots were courtesy of Bill Power who got up to the diner before I did and like Bob Higgins, got to go inside to inspect the damage…

interior-1_The-Deck
interior photo showing fire damage, Sept. 2015 photo by Bill Power

interior-2_The-Deck
interior photo showing fire damage, Sept. 2015 photo by Bill Power

interior-3_The-Deck
interior photo showing fire damage, Sept. 2015 photo by Bill Power

interior-4_The-Deck
interior photo showing fire damage, Sept. 2015 photo by Bill Power

I spoke briefly with Mark Audette when I was there on September 7th and he reiterated that they want to reopen the restaurant but it all depends on what the outcome is with the insurance investigation. Hopefully what is left of the diner is salvageable!

Central Diner moved from long-time home in Millbury, Massachusetts

I got word the other day from my friend Barry Henley (My Brother’s Place, Webster, Mass.) that the Central Diner was moved from its only operating location in Millbury, Massachusetts this week. The diner is a 1930 vintage Worcester Lunch Car (No. 763) which was built to replace a 1910 vintage Worcester Lunch Car on the same location for the Gillert family. They operated the 1930 diner into the 1980s before retiring and selling the property and business. There were a few operators after the Gillerts and the property that the diner sat on at some point ended up being owned by Millbury National Bank which actually blocked the diner’s inclusion to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places back around the year 2000. It was one of two diners on the multiple property submission by the Massachusetts Historical Commission to refuse the listing, the Edgemere Diner in Shrewsbury was the other one.

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Central Diner in Millbury, Mass. Photo by Larry Cultrera

The Central Diner closed earlier this year after being owned and operated by Chris and Amanda White for at least 10 years. Though capable, the White’s were not the friendliest operators I have come across. It was like night and day between them and the previous owners, Richard and Brigid Gore who were very friendly and personable. I wrote about the diner closing here… https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2014/02/15/central-diner-closes-future-in-doubt/. There was recent talk that the diner was in danger of being destroyed unless someone came forward to buy and move it from the property. I know there have been possible interested buyers, but none who wanted to make the commitment. So when Barry contacted me thru Facebook, he sent along a link to a news piece about the diner being purchased and moved by Dave Pritchard of Salisbury, Mass. Dave owns Aran Trading, LTD., a company that deals in leasing and selling trucks, trailers and storage systems. Aran Trading is located just behind the former Chubby’s Diner right (Pritchard owns that one also) off I-95 at the Mass./New Hampshire line. Dave has become a sort of diner savior in the last 15 years and at various times has had the Englewood Diner, Fasano’s/Olympian Diner, the Monarch Diner and Miss Newport Diner stored at his yard. He sold the Miss Newport to Auto Dealer Kevin Meehan (Imperial Cars in the little town of Mendon, Mass.) who relocated and set the diner up as the Miss Mendon Diner. The Englewood was sold to New Balance Shoes who moved the diner adjacent to their corporate headquarters in Brighton, Mass. and restored it, using it for corporate functions as the Red Line Diner. The former Monarch Diner of Dover, NH and North Berwick, Maine was sold more recently to Roger Elkus who reopened the diner earlier this year at a new location in Portsmouth as Roger’s Redliner Diner. The last diner on the premises to my knowledge was Fasano’s/Olympian, a 1963 vintage Fodero colonial model that operated in South Braintree, Mass. until the late 1990s.

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Fasano’s/Olympian Diner and the former Monarch Diner at Aran Trading, LTD.
Photo by Larry Cultrera

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The Miss Newport Diner and Englewood Diner at Aran Trading, LTD.
Photo by Larry Cultrera

I took a quick ride up to Salisbury on the morning of August 1st to get some photos and hopefully meet Dave Pritchard (finally, after all these years). I was lucky to find him at the office as he is a busy guy and is not always there! I had a pleasant time chatting with him talking about “diners”. He mentioned something that surprised me but not totally, not only did he have the Central Diner and Fasanao’s/Olympian Diner in the yard, but he also was storing Worcester Lunch Car No. 666, formerly half of the Midway Diner (Shrewsbury). Doug Johnson had this diner for years in his yard in Andover prior to selling the property recently. Doug sent this message after seeing this post… Hi Larry, Actually the Worcester #666 Diner is being stored at Dave Pritchard’s place (in Salisbury) and is for sale $10K. If anyone is interested, please contact me at doug@sunami.com Thanks.

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The Central Diner at Aran Trading, LTD.

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The Central Diner at Aran Trading, LTD.

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Dave Pritchard posing with the Central Diner at Aran Trading, LTD.

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Worcester Lunch Car No. 666, part of the former Midway Diner last operated
on U.S. Rte. 20 in Shrewsbury, Mass. at Aran Trading, LTD

WLC-No-666-1_8-1-2014
Worcester Lunch Car No. 666, part of the former Midway Diner last operated
on U.S. Rte. 20 in Shrewsbury, Mass. at Aran Trading, LTD

midway5
Midway Diner, U.S. Rte. 20 Shrewsbury, Mass.Number 636 is the diner on the
left, 4 windows on either side of that door on the left hand side. No. 666 is the diner
closest to me (the photographer) with 3 windows on either side of the door on the right hand
side. Early 1980s photo by Larry Cultrera

I mentioned to Dave Pritchard that I noticed he also had the property a couple of blocks east on Main Street from Aran Trading that has the disguised former Dudley’s Diner on it. He confirmed that it was true and the diner was still inside the building. Below is a screen shot from Google Street View showing the building as it is today. Most people would never know there was a very rare early Sterling Diner buried within this building.

former Dudley's street view
Google Street View of the former Dudley’s Diner just down Main Street from
Aran Trading, LTD. Dave Pritchard owns this property as well.

The following to photos were from the early 1980s showing the diner before it got covered up.

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Dudley’s Diner the way it looked in June of 1982. Photo by Larry Cultrera

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Dudley’s Diner the way it looked in June of 1982. Photo by Larry Cultrera

The photo below is an exterior view of the same diner when it was brand-new at it’s original location in Ipswich. The diner was moved after a short time and ended up in Salem, Mass., then Claremont, NH before coming to Salisbury Where it was operated by Jimmy Evans who later went on to owning and operating Ann’s Diner also in Salisbury.

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Exterior view of the Strand Diner at it’s original location in Ipswich, Mass.
This became Dudley’s Diner many years later.

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Interior view of the Strand Diner at it’s original location in Ipswich, Mass.
This became Dudley’s Diner many years later.

On another note, the diner I have referred to as Fasano’s/Olympian was bought brand-new by the Fasano Family and operated from 1963 until June of  1998 in South Braintree, Mass. The Fasano’s sold the diner in 1976 and by 1981 Paul Margetis became the owner who operated it as the Olympian Diner until 1998 when he was forced off the property for a new Osco Drug store. Margetis wanted to move the diner to another location nearby but that idea was eventually shot down by the town of Braintree. Ironically Ralph Fasano, the grandson of the original owner stepped in and bought the diner and moved it into storage with the hopes of finding a new location for it. That too never worked out and Dave Pritchard bought the diner. Dave informed me that he has in fact recently sold the diner and it will be moved to Leominster, Mass. in the near future although it is not clear if the new owner will put it into service.